Ep.6: Gerry Graham : Presentation Pointers from a pro
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About the episode:

This episode focuses on pro-tips for training PRESENTATIONS. Whether you are an inexperienced public speaker or a skilled presenter, you’re guaranteed to hear nuggets that will improve your very next Business English presentations training. Join us for an informative session with experienced Business Class ESL trainer Gerry Graham.

From big corporations to little startups, Gerry has trained countless non-native professionals faced with presenting in English.He offers some of his best take-aways, go-to tricks, and sure-fire suggestions for efficient and effective sessions on presentations. 

Learn the secrets that most trainers and textbooks miss, along with Gerry’s biggest do’s and don’ts.In this short, half-hour episode, you’ll learn the three essential questions for both trainee and trainer, which set the tone for the entire presentation.

You’ll understand what to avoid doing as a trainer, and how to add depth to your session with tips that go beyond the presentation script. Business Class ESL Breakroom Episode 6: Presentation Pointers from a Pro with Gerry Graham packs a lot of punch to a topic that can be daunting for many of us. Don’t miss it.


hi welcome to the business class esl break room we’re a company of passionate language trainers and coaches we’re here to share ideas to improve our skills and strengthen the training community come in for some inspiration leave with tips to apply to your sessions today [Music] in today’s episode we are focusing on presentations while as trainers we may be fairly comfortable speaking in front of others it’s not always a given that we’re at ease doing a presentation let alone training someone else in this important skill luckily our guest today is experienced business class trainer jerry graham from big corporations to little startups jerry has trained countless non-native professionals faced with presenting in english so he’s here today to talk with us about some of his best takeaways go-to tricks and surefire suggestions for efficient and effective sessions on presentations whether you have little personal experience in formal presentations or you’re a trainer with years of giving talks under your belt you’ll come away with something to bring to your next session so jerry thanks so much for coming back i’m really excited to pick your brain you’re welcome nice to see you it’s great to see you it’s this time of not seeing anybody i’m really happy to see you in person um so if we may could we start with some basic concepts for the least experienced among us and for example i mean somebody who may not have given formal presentations before becoming a language trainer well yeah um a lot of people are afraid when they see something like i need presentation help or i need meeting help for somebody who may not be experienced in that type of field they panic because they say but i’m not experienced in giving that type of explanation sure but what is important for you is to remember that you are not necessarily you do not necessarily have to be an expert in presentations but in the language of presentations and a lot of people think you know presentations i have to know everything no you have to know the language that will help the person to get his message across yeah that’s reassuring that’s true and so what advice would you give an inexperienced public speaker when tasked with training presentations well for training with presentations i would ask the um the trainee uh basically what uh he has to present and why he has to present it and by doing that you can find out a little bit of his needs in the presentation and his audience because in in english i always say to to the participants and also for the trainers as well that when you’re making a presentation there are three questions you should think of especially for the trainee but also it’ll help the trainer and the three questions are what is the presentation for who is the audience and what you want to do to the audience do you want to inform criticize explain and there’s a final one as well which is how do you want to do it does that mean you want to be aggressive do you want to be polite you want to be um sort of teasing the people it’s kind of like adding a flavor what flavor of presentation it’s an addition and i think that the the trainees and the trainers especially the trainers can work on that because it’s a way of getting the presentation to become more lively i’m not just uh are reading a text that is so boring that’s everybody goes away and says um what happened in this presentation i don’t remember anything yeah i like that i like that idea of what flair do you want to give it that’s that’s a really good way to wash it over with color yeah thank you for that now can we turn our attention to someone who is a season who’s seasoned already at training presentations maybe you could share something with us that’s kind of out of the box or out of the textbook um practices to breathe some life well you just did but what else could you offer for someone who already knows well for somebody whoever already knows it like you know if i talk about my experience with presentation i’ve been working on presentation help since about 1997. no sorry 1987 so it’s been a long time and it’s never real never think that each presentation will be the same always be careful of the unexpected in the presentation and especially for the the people now because our ideas of presentation have changed so much over the years like a long time ago we had um the plastic slides that we used to use with an overhead projector now we’re working on power points and now we’re working through zoom because of the kovi 19 pandemic so our ways of presenting our difference on not only a formal presentation because people confuse um a presentation always by thinking yeah i have to stand in front of a group of people to explain what i want to do and what i want to show them but a presentation is not just powerpoint and a lot of people forget that and i see so you look a little bit confused here because you’re expecting a bombshell here no i’m just excited to hear what’s next a presentation can also be if you’re on a trade fair which of course we’re not at the moment you’re explaining how a project is organized or how a product is made or you’re explaining about the company okay that can be face to face but no basis of um paper in front of you a presentation will be on the telephone sure because you have to realize that when when you’re telephone a client a potential client or even a normal a regular client when you’re explaining something to somebody you’re presenting true and people forget that that they think oh presentations i it’s powerpoint that’s it no presentation is everything presentation is also for example when we were at the beginning when we started to teach i’m using the word teacher because it was what we used before um people on how to introduce themselves and that was this type of presentation yeah of course if you break it down all of these communications where you are explaining something and you have an audience maybe of one it’s still an audience it’s an audience though it’s true like for example i’m making a presentation to you but you can’t see me right right yeah that’s a good point so if we can go back um to the question of you know an experienced trainer what might be some pointers you have that most trainers miss um i think sometimes um and i might sound a bit sort of presumptuous when i say this sometimes um trainers try to get the participant the trainee to be work perfect and it can stress the trainer the trainee to be word perfect because he thinks i have to say this expression because it’s a good expression and my trainer told me to use this expression and my response to that is no you can give the students two or three expressions and let the person say what he feels more comfortable with yeah because there are ways of saying things and you know we as english trainers are if you’re a french trainer or whatever or italian trainer says if you’re lots of people listening to this you sometimes think yeah but this is a really good expression i think they should use but i’ll give you an expression i’ll give you an example sorry um it’s like a long time ago you can say i wonder if you wouldn’t mind give me your pen please it’s a perfect expression and i remember a lot of french people at the beginning tried to use this and i said there’s a simpler way it’s a but it’s a good expression i said yes but you cannot maybe use it i said you can say could you give me your pen it’s exactly the same so it’s this idea of don’t complicate it yeah for the participant realize what the level of the participant is and work on that level yeah given i admit give them more expressions give them more complicated expressions if you want but warn them that sometimes these expressions can backfire if they’re not said correctly oh yeah good points but i love the idea of giving them permission to just use what’s comfortable even physically sometimes the physicality of some words or just you find yourself tripping over them and so i do the same i say choose the one that suits you as well which is great and also another thing for maybe for experienced trainers not only experience but all types of trainers doing presentations is help the participants the trainee work on his body language because people seem to forget that body language is also very important in a presentation if you’re doing a physical powerpoint presentation or especially not with zoom because you can see all of the facial expressions sometimes really close up and it’s and if the participant says something he’s not convinced that it doesn’t give a good impression for the people who are listening to him or um again and i have had this experience in different different companies um you know when you’re training people to make presentations of are you have to also be careful of their clothing and i’ll give you an example of that i had one student one day who was a sales person who was making a presentation a very formal presentation in a large company that i worked for and he stood up and he his jacket was buttoned the wrong way oh no and another person came and he was wearing a jacket but the jacket sleeves were too long for his arms and he looked like a clown unfortunately oh no and so it was taken away from what message was being given because you know it’s something that is important i’m not saying to be dressed up in uh dior love or whatever but you know just be careful yeah neat and tidy may i also just jump on to what you said about zoom as a personal thought is i notice eye contact and sometimes it takes a while to get it right and it might be worth practicing with the co-worker because sometimes i notice if i think i’m looking in my computer’s camera and then i see the video later i realized that i look like i’m looking above the trainee and it’s very distracting so it’s honestly worth practicing to see that you’re giving eye contact when you’re training they they there’s a technique for that as well because a lot of people oh sorry i’ll start again in front eye contact is extremely important and sometimes it’s it looks it sounds a little bit a little bit like the snake in in jungle book where you have it’s the song i i’ve worked on film somewhere i have have trust in me and he’s looking in the eyes to to hypnotize the person sometimes anglo-saxons don’t like that looking in the eyes directly in this piercing look it can be a bit unnerving yeah it can be very destabilizing for anglo-saxon because i remember anglo-saxon normally we look at the face rather than the eyes really yeah that’s interesting it’s a it’s a completely different uh different style we have to have our distance you remember the famous film dirty dancing your space myspace right well that’s personal space but i i never thought it’s interesting i hadn’t thought about the fact that we i thought it was important to look in eyes but yeah maybe not too intense yeah not too intensively so i always make a joke with this by showing the film a jungle book to show them that you know this can be very sort of aggressive at times now to get out of that looking at the person directly in the eyes is a technique that i learned years ago um and i can’t remember who taught me or where i learned it from but it’s not looking at directed the person in the eyes but fixing a point between the two eyebrows just above the nose and if you look at the person and just above the nose the person thinks you’re looking at their eyes but you’re not and i’m doing this at the moment with soon and i don’t know if she realizes looking at doing the same thing and i don’t know she realized that i’m not looking at her eyes i’m looking at above her above her eyes and it’s a technique for people who are or get stressed in presentations because there are people who get stressed because this constant stare very interesting i love that point thank you um i have another question here which is um what has been a tip or practice that learners come back and thank you for later have come back and thank you well there’s one which i haven’t talked about so i’m going to talk about it now is that when i have a person who no matter what level because i have done it in the past as well when i’m making presentations both in french and in english because i had to make presentations to 200 students at a time in an engineering school so what i did was i had my slides and i wrote what i was going to say per slide i wrote the text what i wanted to say and i’ve told people who are afraid of not getting the message across to write what they want to say but not necessarily read the text but it’s like a basis for them as like a prospect as we say here in france where they um can print out their presentation with what they call the um the commentaries or the um explanations and at the top of the page you have a picture of the slide and at the bottom of the page you have the text that you’re going to use it’s like a script like a scripter okay yeah and what it is is for example in this in the script or in the text whatever you can put for example pause in the sentence so if you come to a part and you pause to give effect it’s almost like stage direction like stage directions or you can um put something in italics or something in bold that’s important to talk about to put insistence on the on the um the expression or the word and for example a lot of people get asked questions during the presentation and so when i say to people it’s good if you have a text or a script because you can mark with a pen where you stopped so you can start again where you stopped off instead of getting confused while you were what you were talking about that’s a great idea yeah that’s a really good idea i like that and it helps you to organize your presentation a lot better perhaps yeah you know it’s like when you do a roadmap for a a training session absolutely yeah you can you can organize what you’re going to do helps you keep keep keeps you on track which is what you need especially in a presentation because there’s so much more chance you’re going to get distracted just one more thing about that for the present person for the the experienced trainers or any trainer is remind the participant that um they are the leader of the presentation that means that they control the room the room does not control them and when they’re making a presentation they have to be careful that it’s not going into a meeting by too many interruptions too many interruptions that lead to lots of different things that are not necessarily um included in the presentation and a technique to stop that happening is actually to switch off the presentation put a blank screen up do you mean when somebody interrupts with a question you put it blank a long time ago what we used to do we used to say to people is put a blank screen up and get the person to repeat the question because that meant that everybody would listen to the question okay because when they see a blank screen they’re waiting for something to happen okay so let’s say someone says okay could i interrupt you with a question and you say okay but you shut off your screen or your slides and then once you’ve answered it you go back to your slide once once once the person has asked the question so that everybody hears them yeah then you put back up the slide again and then explain it to the people what what the you you explain the or you give the answer to the question okay i’ll pick that again because what basically what it is is a person asks the question usually in the presentation and not everybody is listening to the question right so um because then sometimes maybe this another person will ask the same question later so what i suggest is you put a blank screen up when a person has already asked the question oh yeah paul has a question so everybody will listen to the question and then paul asks this question for the second time and you put the screen back up again and you talk about what the question or what the answer would give to the questioner that’s a nice tip it’s a nice way of remaining in control of what’s happening and keeping things on track and one thing as well that’s a lot of i’ve seen happen a lot of times especially in latin types of latin presentations because i have had experience with in a multinational company with a multinational training course in the uk where we had people from spain france austria romania etc who came over and it’s the problem of when a person asks the question that maybe the answer is at the end of the presentation or later on in the presentation latins especially try to answer the question before you come to that part of the presentation they anticipate they they jump across maybe three or four slides the person giving the presentation yeah will jump ahead to answer yeah a question rather than saying to the person who asked that question which will come up later said oh just hold on to that question and i’ll speak about that in a few minutes okay and uh because the germanics don’t like that like everything in order everything in order and uh if you if you think about it a uh a latin um presentation sometimes can jump around um people don’t follow what’s happening and you lose your credibility so it’s important to set out front uh when questions will be answered and how well the question can be asked but you might you don’t have to answer the questions immediately but i’m saying maybe the idea would be to say in the beginning we will take questions at the end or we will take questions in the beginning but please hold on for the answer or something like that you you you you tell the the the trainees that they are i remember always in control of the room okay that they can say when they would like to have questions just warn them that if they say they can have questions during the presentation it’s not a free-for-all yeah that’s a good one okay so that brings me to this question here what is something that they never cover in esl materials that you wish they would and i think it’s the fact that there’s a there’s a thing which is called um the n o a the n o a n o a what do you think anyway oh he’s training me training the trainer um train the trainer today noah never something never on uh a sunday i don’t know no it’s called negative object analysis objection analysis and a negative objection analysis is getting the participant to think about questions that could come up in the presentation that he hasn’t covered so that he’s prepared for them and can give them like off the top of his head uh fanta that’s what we do in coaching kind of preempting um it’s pretty empty but it’s it’s the idea that the participant will not be caught off guard and if he doesn’t have an answer to a question and you have to insist on this the trainers must insist on this if the participant does not have an answer to a question he says he does not have an answer he does not try to bluff if the presenter doesn’t have the answer yeah yeah yeah be honest be upfront but the trainer the trainers must insist on this with the presenter when they’re giving a presentations course oh it’s just on allowing them they’re giving them the permission to say we don’t we don’t have the answer can i get back to you okay and training them to say that and to feel okay which may differ from culture to culture as to whether or not they they feel acceptable doing that yeah that’s that’s a big one yeah and a long time ago there was a technique for that that somebody one of my um uh participants who was a presenter and he said to me what i do sometimes is i uh this was before the time of of internet and uh you know iphones on you name it and he said what i used to do was get the person to write the question on his business card and give me his business card so i could get back to him on it oh that’s a nice one and i said but where’d you do that he says well basically he has to make um a question simple and small to fit on the business card and it also gives him the idea it’s been personalized because he gave me his business card yeah and i have all his details on the business card so i can get back directly to him it’s great it’s a great way of making a contact and building trust because that person will then feel very good when you do get back to them but it’s interesting because it goes back to this idea of authenticity and being authentic sometimes creates a lot more trust than being the expert yeah and that has a lot of value i think and you can sort of say what is an expert in presentation there’s no such thing there are people who are good at presentations and i know a lot of my training a lot of my colleagues will probably say yeah but there are experts in presentation yeah but they they change they’re constantly changing sure so if you have to constantly change all the time you’re not an expert in the field you’re learning new things yeah well i think the the most admirable experts and quotes are the ones who are lifelong learners so so can you share jerry an aha moment of a learner who was struggling with presentations and how did he or she get there well it’s funny because um people say yeah it’s only the low level people who have this maybe aha idea but it can be any level because you can have a person who’s quite good in the presentation um or who’s makes presentations all the time but he doesn’t feel good at the end of his presentation and you know when you have a lower level person you can express himself and he gets um congratulated by the members of his group that he’s presenting that’s something really good i’ll give you something that i have i had um a long time ago i was i was helping a phd student making his phd thesis presentation and when he started the presentation with me at the beginning he he had 40 minutes to make his presentation and his first presentation was uh one hour 25 minutes well so we had to cut it down now it was something that was about nano technologies which was really out of my domain really out of my domain i knew this the participant really well and he eventually eventually worked on it to cut it down and um when he invited me to his um thesis presentation and at the end of the presentation when they deliberated the jury deliberated and um i was in the in the in the lecture theater and the um jury said well they give the the passmark to all of them he said one thing i would like to do is like to contractually one of the one of the presenters who made an excellent presentation and it was my students who got this excellent presentation and i could see uh the students just beaming and he looked at me and i just put my finger up to my my mouth and just said shh and but he came to me afterwards so it was really something that was really really good yeah that’s fantastic so it’s just something something strange well that’s that’s you know we all need those moments but when they when they come back and they say you know i succeeded in what i was was going to present uh you know it’s really good some people come back and said you know i made a mistake and i said yeah so what you made a mistake it’s not a problem we can fix it right and the the question is not you know the mistake is did you get your message across and did the people retain anything what you said or enjoy the experience because when they say they made a mistake it meant that they didn’t get what they didn’t get a contract or something and i said but wasn’t going to be worth it he said no and i said well you didn’t make a mistake there you go you know it’s it’s people look at it in different ways and you have to always always always support what they’ve done no matter what it is you have to give them the backing the participants you have to give the participants back in as a trainer even if they have a very bad day when the presentation you sort of you look for the good points yeah i’m not the bad point sir you say the bad points are things that you can improve on proof yeah it’s true that big believe i’m a big believer and complimenting and pointing out the the positive things because they do have a powerful impact depending on the cultures we were working with because now we’re working with lots of different cultures within our own um groups now in for example in business class we’ve got people from china we’ve got people from italy romania algeria you know all different types of nationalities sure and we have to realize that our that’s in different cultures as well uh mistake is seen differently in different cultures right that’s true well jerry we know that time is um precious but to wrap things up i’d love to just have your thoughts on your three biggest do’s or don’ts or what would you pull them up i’ve said sort of come across them but to reiterate them um the biggest do is that you have to realize that you’re helping them whatever level they’re up they are okay you’re not here to make them work perfect okay okay yeah accept them where they are okay accept what they are except what they can do uh one thing you should do as well is find out what the presentation is about so you can more focus your idea instead of giving something that’s very wide okay sort of focus on what type of presentation they’re going to make and how they’re going to say it okay so that’s more for you the trainer to do your research yeah okay um and if it’s something for the um the trainee that you have to insist on it’s quite simply something we do all the time in our lives and it’s the idea of to breathe because we have sometimes people who are presenters who have a race to find out how fast they can end the sentence and the problem is that they say the sentence so fast that nobody understands what they say so therefore they’re asked questions yeah so take time to agree when they’re presenting and also to rehearse the presentation yes of course that’s major and don’t i would say the don’ts are don’t say that a presentation is not good if you are a trainer and if it is for example if it is not good you don’t say it’s not good because there are sometimes your presentation which are disastrous i’ve had that experience before in another company where i had a participant who made a presentation which was really bad and the only um i tried to get him to change i tried to give the good points he wasn’t having it so i thought okay well what i did was and this was a long time ago so i’m talking about things that a lot of you young people might not know anymore about is that having a cassette and recording the person on a audio cassette sure i’m playing it back to him and he said i remember him saying to me i don’t understand that presentation it’s totally rubbish of his own his own and i said to him listen it’s you and he says no it’s not i said listen and he listened and he said yeah this means making the presentation and i don’t understand myself so there are some radical things you can do and sometimes it’s necessary using technology it’s easy to always say no don’t don’t tell him if it’s bad you say you know there are there’s a lot of there’s a room for improvement or there’s a lot of room for improvement right be more positive though great and don’t um kill yourself if the student or the participant comes back and says the presentation was not good because you as a trainer you’re here to help them with their language the way they deliver the language is not your problem afterwards in the presentation yeah a lot of trainers think you know what’s my fault they didn’t make a good presentation no you you weren’t present you don’t know that what how the presentation turned out it could have turned out simply um just because some uh because somebody has asked difficult questions and the participant couldn’t answer or got no help from his colleagues to answer the question sure so there are many elements to a presentation and our role is the language trainer if you want to go above and beyond and you have the skill to to address the more theatrical points of training okay that’s one thing but remember the baseline is your language trainer and probably another do that you can think make the presentation enjoyable yeah for everybody yeah have fun don’t be afraid to have fun with it don’t be afraid you know you adapt to that on the day but don’t be afraid to have fun excellent well jerry these have been excellent as always as always i know presentations are kind of a huge uh topic so if uh we ever would love to call you back and we could talk more about kind of contents and more nuts and bolts would you be open no problem whatsoever huh that would be awesome thank you so much you’re welcome i’ll speak to you again sometime folks have a good day forward to it thanks jerry thanks for joining us in the business class esl break room the podcast designed to bring business english trainers useful ideas inspiration and conversation that motivates follow us on instagram at business underscore class underscored language and subscribe to the esl break room playlist on spotify deezer or apple music for new episodes see you next time   

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Sue Nally

Sue Nally

Business English Trainer

Certified Advanced Neurolanguage® Coach.